How do I make up some flowers that sound plausible? I mean, something like bioluminescent flowers.
to make a believable plant first we take a look at the climate it thrives in. If it’s based on the real world, you should take a look at the Köppen climate classification, which is most commonly used to illustrate our worlds different climate zones and gives a good overview on how they’re structured. Below you’ll find a rather simple version of a world map and our climate zones. As you can see it’s not exactly clean cut.
If your world is fictional to any degree and you haven’t figured out its climate zones that well or at all, don’t despair now. The most important thing right now is to focus is the climate the plant is growing in, you’ll be surprised how much it will be able to tell you about its looks and growth. For an easy example let’s look at dry and desert-like places. Harsh sunshine makes for small leaves, succulents or thorns instead of leaves. (Cacti have thorns, and roses have pricks, not the other way around, just trust me on this, it’s true and accurate.) Cold generally kills plants, which is why our poles have only snow, but Greenland still has plants growing. Equator plants largely grow beneath the shadow of large trees, so while they’re generally used to heat and warmth, they cannot stand direct sunlight for extended periods. Temperate climates usually can grow a large variate of plants, even from other climate zones however those usually can’t stand the autumn and winter.
How much sun (heat factor), wind (dries soils), rain (keeps it wet of course) and shadow (keeps soil from drying out just a little longer) does your plant get? How warm or cold is the place, is it a bog or fen (depends on how acidic the ground is) which makes for mushy, wet soil in general. Give them bloom cycles and consider what happens when someone cuts them (how long do they live, if at all) or what happens when they are replanted into a different climate. Can they stand being indoors or do they die within two days like margarites? Are they hardy or do they have to come inside when it gets cold?
If you’re going to break any of these conditions (aka our reality) for the sake of your world, let there be a reason, which is a little deeper than just someone yelling “magic!” Have your characters study the plants, trying to explain why they behave the way they do even if the end result is that they just can’t figure out how it works, e.g. they don’t have the necessary technology or scientific methods to figure it out.
So now that we’ve covered that, how exactly do we make bioluminescent plants?
Bioluminescence is a form of chemiluminescence and considered the production and emission of light by an organism. Chemiluminescence describes the emission of light in response to a chemical reaction, and when the whole thing happens inside a life form that’s when it becomes bioluminescence.
There have been several tries of humanity creating bioluminescent plants since the 1980s, however, most being futile. The most recent and probably most well-known try was in fact kickstarted in 2013. So far our idea of creating bioluminescent plants is to create a GMO (genetically modified organism) and why not, DNA at its core is all the same bolts and screws. Which makes the theoretical idea quite plausible. Take the genetic code that makes the light from one being and glue it into the DNA of your plant of choice. (Yes, we have the technology to do these things, no I am not going to elaborate, we do floristry, not genetics.)
If it only were that easy. Turns out genetic manipulation is a little more difficult than that. (We are not going to discuss whether that’s a good or bad thing, this is simply stated as a fact nothing more.)
For a plant to actually glow a little tiny molecule called luciferin is needed and required to react with its corresponding enzyme luciferase. Two things plants do not naturally produce. The general problem here is to incorporate this process into the plant with all the genes and DNA intact and have it act as a natural part of the whole organism. One of the reasons the previously mentioned Kickstarter hasn’t shipped any plants to this day is exactly that one of the genes broke while they implanted it into the plant, which of course made no bioluminescent plants at all. One of their future goals was, in fact, bioluminescent trees, but let’s guess that’s not going to happen for a long time with how things are progressing.
An actual success in the field proved to be the Avatar Starlight created in 2010 inspired by the flora from the 2009 movie Avatar. The company website is unfortunately down, but going by the fact that it was sold at an auction (and presumably at much more affordable prices at an online store for a while afterwards) I think we can say it was at least a short-lived success. The plants lived for approximately 2-3 months and a quick Google search will easily pull up multiple articles about the plant.
Scientists have also managed to develop an algae powered street lamp, which admittedly isn’t bioluminescent at all, but instead making use of the photosynthesis to power it, but that’s still pretty cool.
Now, fungi. Fungi don’t exactly count as plants, they’re more or less they’re own thing, but over 75 species are considered to be bioluminescent, so it’s definitely not a thing exclusive to bacteria, insects and deep-sea fauna.
When it comes to plants I think one of the major questions is also what for is it bioluminescent? Animals have all sorts of reasons for that behaviour and prettiness isn’t exactly on the list, although it could fall under the attraction purpose (to attract prey or mates), other uses include attack, defence and communication. Considering your world is already fictional, why not give these plants a cool reason for their appearance.
For anyone feeling like it, you can also brave this academic article by the guy who developed the Avatar Starlight. I admit I haven’t read it, I tried to, but it just made my brain hurt even skimming the paragraphs. I am pretty sure it is interesting though and I would like to clarify that this blog cannot give a statement on the article and its opinions at this point. This is simply linked for all those who want to further their research even more.
- Mod Jana
This blog is intended as writing advice only. This blog and its mods are not responsible for accidents, injuries or other consequences of using this advice for real world situations or in any way that said advice was not intended.